Skip to main content

Names and subjects, 1981-2008


Scope and Contents

Comprised primarily of correspondence, clippings, notes, reports and ephemera, "Names and Subjects" documents d'Harnoncourt's steady contact with colleagues, artists and patrons of the arts, as well as government officials, corporate leaders, scholars and educators. She also kept a number of subject folders, monitoring trends, topics and events, as well as issues specific to Museum operations.

Indicative of a museum director's priorities, all the date-defined subseries contain extensive documentation pertaining to each Museum department, particularly the curatorial ones. Memos between d'Harnoncourt and curators trace an ongoing dialogue regarding issues such as collection development, conservation, technological innovations in collection management, exhibition and publication ideas, and staffing. D'Harnoncourt often received copies of staff's outgoing correspondence as well. In many cases, the conversations would continue beyond the initial communication. Using photocopies of interoffice and outgoing correspondence, d'Harnoncourt and her staff would add handwritten comments, sometimes filling the page with their exchange of ideas. Outside the Museum, d'Harnoncourt's correspondents include collectors, researchers, visiting scholars and other museum professionals. Folders also include meeting minutes and correspondence with departmental committee members and other trustees, press releases, gallery announcements and magazine and newspaper clippings. By the number of clippings filed throughout this series, it seems d'Harnoncourt was a voracious reader of a wide-range of publications and a true conduit of information--regularly forwarding copies of articles about which she felt the recipient needed to know.

Also well-documented in this series is the Museum's relationship with the governmental offices of the city of Philadelphia. Having provided the funding in 1919 to begin construction of the Museum's now iconic building atop Fairmount Hill, the city continues to own the main building and grounds, with the Museum acting as its agent in managing the indoor portion of the building. As stated in the Museum's 2008 Annual Report, the city pays all utilities and certain costs for building maintenance and provides appropriations to support operations. While private sources, such as endowments, grants and the Museum's campaign and marketing efforts, remain PMA's primary source of funding, the city's appropriations are vital to its successful existence. It is not surprising then that most of d'Harnoncourt's "City" files pertain to budget issues, revealing the Museum's actions to ensure adequate funding, which were heightened at times of local fiscal crisis. Documentation consists of correspondence with numerous officials, including the Mayor and his staff, the City Controller, members of City Council, and the Finance Director, as well as legal counsel. Internal memos, reports, budget submissions, drafts and transcripts of testimony given by d'Harnoncourt and other Museum executives to City Council about PMA's economic impact on the City, as well as d'Harnoncourt's notes from meetings and phone conversations are also included. As other files make evident, the Museum worked with city officials on matters other than money. By no later than 1984, d'Harnoncourt joined the Mayor's Cultural Advisory Council and later served on the Collection Review Committee of the city's Civic Center Museum. The Museum, along with other curating institutions, was also instrumental in the 1985 launch of "Art in City Hall" exhibitions, and as later files attest, continued to monitor the program. [The material is filed under project name, rather than a subset to "City" folders.] General "City" folders include d'Harnoncourt's correspondence with the Superintendent of Schools regarding the Museum's role in education. Files of the Museum's "Division of Education" as well as "City: School District" hold related documentation. D'Harnoncourt also kept record on mayoral transitions, center city development, and tourism. Additional documentation of the latter two can be found in the "Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce" and "Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance" files.

Although the amount of documentation filed as "Fairmount Park Commission" is much less by comparison to "City" folders, the office was integral to the Museum's operation. It was the Commission, on behalf of the city, that supervised the 1920s construction project and remained responsible for the Museum's public funding. [The Commission was dissolved in the November 2008 elections. In its place is the Commission of Parks and Recreation.] The Museum reported to the Commission on matters relating to PMA's housing, care and display of several art collections that the city owns through bequests from some of Philadelphia's most prominent citizens of the early to mid-20th century. These are the George W. and William L. Elkins, the W.P. Wilstach and the John H. McFadden art collections. In d'Harnoncourt's files, correspondence pertaining to the collections primarily documents the Museum's formal request for permission to send works of art out on loan. A variety of issues relating to the public space surrounding the Museum, such as the feasibility of paid parking and an outdoor café on the terrace, are also documented.

The Museum has long cared for the John G. Johnson collection, which was also bequeathed to the city in 1917. Wachovia Bank serves as the successor trustee to this important collection of more than 1,200 European paintings and sculptures. While the amount of documentation is not extensive, it is consistent throughout the series. So, too, are d'Harnoncourt's files of the Museum's own "Ars Medica" collection, which is comprised of more than 2,500 drawings, photographs and rare books that examine the practice of medicine, pharmacy and public health through the visual arts.

Another aspect of collection development and management documented in this series is the critical role of private funding and support. Based on the number of files, those institutions with which the Museum cultivated a long and steady relationship include the J. Paul Getty Trust, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, William Penn Foundation and Pew Charitable Trust. D'Harnoncourt also remained aware of and involved in the activities of groups formed specifically to support the Museum; namely, Collab, Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her participation in the acquisition, deaccessioning or loan of works of art is documented in files titled by each activity or as subgroups to curatorial department folders.

Committed to engaging others in a conversation with art, d'Harnoncourt struck up conversations of her own with a number of contemporary artists. With some, the association mixed the professional with the personal as the enthusiastically drawn hearts and exclamation points she added to her handwritten letters make evident. Such artists documented here include John Cage, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Dorothy Norman, Dorothea Tanning and Andrew Wyeth. The files attesting to d'Harnoncourt's long association with family members of Marcel Duchamp are included in Series III, "Long-term records." Also in that series are the records of PMA's close work with descendants of Alexander Calder to build a museum in Philadelphia devoted to that family of artists.

D'Harnoncourt held a number of professional affiliations, and documentation to most was transferred to her papers. During processing, however, it was determined that files of certain institutions should remain with her Museum records. The criteria to retain were whether the institution was either: a local, city or state organization devoted to the promotion of public appreciation of the arts, including tourism; or a national or international coalition of museums. Since documentation of the 20 institutions meeting the criteria is dispersed among the appropriate date-span subseries, their listing, along with d'Harnoncourt's role in each, is given below. Her participation in the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) is by far the best documented in this series. She sat on a number of committees, regularly attended the annual meetings, and as folder content confirms, took copious notes of the proceedings. D'Harnoncourt's affiliation with some organizations began during her curatorial years. Because those files originally were processed with her earliest director's records, they have been left here.

AAM--member since 1977 with service on Trustee Committee

AAMD--member since 1983 with service on various committees and as elected officer

Alliance Française de Philadelphia--1992 chairperson

American Arts Alliance [defunct?]--1981 appointment to Board of Directors

AMICO--1998 appointment to Board of Directors

Art in City Hall--1997 appointment to Board of Directors

Barnes Foundation--1990? Appointment to Advisory Committee

City Hall Museum--1994 appointment as Committee member

[Philadelphia] Civic Center Museum--1993? Appointment to Collection Review Committee

Fairmount Park Art Association--1994? Appointment to Board of Trustees; earlier service on committees

Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts, Humanities and Sciences. 1988 appointment to Arts Review Panel [1996 known as Governor's Awards for the Arts]

Governor's Travel and Tourism Council--member since 1997

ICOM Committee of the AAM [AAM/ICOM]--member since 1974

ICOM/CIMAM--member since 1977?

Mayor's Cultural Advisory Council--1987 appointment [with later reappointments]

Mitchell Prize for the History of Art--1987 juror

Parkway Council Foundation--member since 1997?; service on Marketing and Planning Committee.

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts--Annual appointments to various panels since 1982

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau--1999 appointment to Board of Directors

Philadelphia Hospitality, Inc.--1997 appointment to Board of Advisors


  • 1981-2008

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research as follows. Records created before the year 2000 are open, with exceptions noted at the subseries or folder level. Folders containing some items requiring further restriction are noted as "permanently restricted in part" or "restricted in part." Access to the latter is at the discretion of the archivist. All press clippings, photographs, and transcripts of remarks and lectures are open for research. Records created after 1999 will be subject to a 15-year closure calculated on the last year of designated date spans. Accordingly, 2000-2003 records will become available on Jan. 1, 2019; and 2004-2008 on Jan. 1, 2024.


137.25 linear feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


The date spans that define each subseries are based on the bulk dates of records as periodically accessioned by the Archives. Within each subseries, folders are alphabetically arranged, with general alphabet folders consisting of multiple names and subjects preceding individually titled folders.

For the most part, original order of folders has been retained. Names have been revised, however, according to the Library of Congress Name Authority File. For example, a folder originally entitled "Mellon Foundation" has been renamed to "Andrew W. Mellon Foundation," and alphabetically filed by "Mellon." Because of originally inconsistent and/or incorrect naming, the following institutions have now been identified and alphabetically filed by their more familiar acronyms: American Association of Museums (AAM); American Association of Museums/US-International Council of Museums (AAM/ICOM); Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC); Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD); American Federation of Arts (AFA); American Law Institute-American Bar Association (ALI-ABA); Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO); International Council of Museums (ICOM); International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (ICOM/CIMAM); International Exhibition Organizers Conference (IEOC); and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA).

With general alphabet folders, researchers may need to consult several folders to find certain documentation as there are several filing conventions pertaining to certain institutions, particularly museums outside the United States. Some are filed by the city in which the institution is located; others are filed under the letter "M" for that country's word for "museum" or "S" if the institution name begins with that country's word for "state" (German or Swedish) or "municipal" (Dutch). See the Museum Archivist for a list of such institutions that were identified during processing.

Within the alphabetical arrangement of each subseries, similarly titled folders are in ascending chronology. Material within each folder is in descending chronological order. Items originally clipped or stapled together (but not as attachments or enclosures) have remained so, and filed within a folder by the latest date of the bundled items. [This was no doubt the assistant's procedure, keeping together material documenting a particular activity from its initiation to completion.] The date span for such material is noted on the paper wrap that now replaces the original metal fastener or is now noted in pencil and in brackets on the latest dated item. These date spans were also used to determine the date(s) noted in the folder title. Because of this, the folder dates may appear to be out of chronological order--they are not.


Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States